In Australia, we have a major poetry prize: Kenneth Slessor Prize for poetry ($15,000). Here are this year's nominations:
Robert Adamson, The Goldfinches of Baghdad (Flood Editions)
This is one of the strongest collections ever from an extremely fine poet.
Three sections – one mainly derived from the Orpheus and Eurydice myth,
one built around Australian birds in the form of meditations and
contemporary fables, the last built mainly around letters, friendships and
the work of other artists – are composed together to offer a poetry which
is mythic in tendency and at the same time highly intimate and lyrical.
The Goldfinches of Baghdad reflects the work of a poet engaged in a
profound work of Australian lyricism and able to look firmly at the
complexities of the contemporary world.
Laurie Duggan, The Passenger ( University of Queensland Press)
The Passenger offers the companionable pleasure of Laurie Duggan as deft
poetic guide through a series of minimalist yet richly detailed vignettes.
His characteristically casual and elegant ‘field notes' explore the
‘disposition of things' with throw-away mastery. As he transits from one
scene to another we are his willing passengers, experiencing with him the
unassuming insouciance and comic lightness of an uncommon poetic
intelligence even as he practises the art of almost disappearing into ‘a
gap between radiances'. These poems are spare but never cramped, giving
the reader ‘a shaped and worked landscape/where colour is no accident'.
Les Murray, The Biplane Houses (Black Inc.)
The Biplane Houses demonstrates how well Les Murray has sustained his work
as a poet over many volumes and many years. The Biplane Houses has all of
Murray 's extraordinary verbal energy, his great range of local insight
and his daring flashes of wit and inventiveness. This book is classic
Murray distilled into the short poem. It is a collection of the finest
late pickings from a poet whose work is justly recognized as a major
contribution to contemporary poetry in English.
John Tranter, Urban Myths: 210 Poems ( University of Queensland Press)
This generous collection of 210 poems takes in the whole of John Tranter's
dazzling career including fifty new and uncollected poems as virtuosic as
anything that precedes them. Combining technical mastery with a restless,
experimental drive, Tranter deals in ‘popular mysteries' and iconic
characters; the irony of the everyday and ‘the vernacular of the shopping
channel'. His love affair with poetic forms and the resources of speech
energizes his work and stimulates his readers, counterbalancing ‘grief, in
small allotments' with the ‘gift factory' of poetic invention and the
sheer exuberance of language.
Simon West, First Names (Puncher and Wattmann)
In a year dominated by major new collections from well established poets
with long publishing histories, Simon West's First Names stood out as an
extremely accomplished first book. The judges particularly admired the
precision and melos of the language, and the sense of an emerging poet
possessed of very mature technical skill. West's book explores a
relationship with both contemporary Italian and Renaissance Italian
poetry, a relationship which inflects his work with influences rarely felt
so clearly in Australian poetry. The book is a sustained, finely designed
performance as a whole collection: there is not a missing beat or weak
Fay Zwicky, Picnic (Giramondo Publishing Company)
The title poem places the poet at ‘a picnic with Afghani refugees' in
Perth 's Kings Park . Seated with the women while their men brood ‘under a
far-off tree', Fay Zwicky deftly establishes the fraught continuities and
discontinuities between the familial and the political, the private and
the public, the small and large scale. The collection is grounded in
experience and animated by a concern with ethical life and her own
responsibilities as a poet, a teacher, a lover, a mother. In their
stylized musical and narrative architecture, the poems of Picnic create a